Drysuit Review

Familiarize Yourself With Drysuit Styles and Features Before You Buy One

All drysuits for scuba diving are not created equally, and a drysuit style that is ideal for one diver in one environment may not be perfect for a different diver or a different environment. Your choice of drysuit will ultimately depend upon your needs as a diver and where you plan to dive. There's a great deal to consider when choosing a drysuit!

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The Five Most Common Drysuit Materials

A drysuit diver under the ice.
Drysuits keep divers dry, and therefore warmer, in harsh environments. The most common types of drysuits are trilaminate and crushed neoprene. © Getty Images

Drysuits are available in a number of different materials, and it's best to choose a suit that is tailored towards your specific diving requirements. Here are the five most common drysuit materials to choose from.

1. Trilaminate Drysuits

Trilaminate drysuits have three layers: the outer and inner layers are most commonly made of commonly nylon and polyester, and the thin middle layer is usually made of butyl rubber, which acts as a waterproof barrier.

Trilaminate drysuits are popular for many reasons. They are lightweight and easy to transport and they are fairly streamlined in the water. Trilaminate drysuits dry quickly and are relatively easy to repair. The material has no intrinsic buoyancy.

One disadvantage of trilaminate suits is that the material itself has little flexibility. To solve this problem, trilaminate suits are usually cut to fit loosely to allow a good range of motion.

The trilaminate material doesn't provide much thermal insulation. Divers who use this sort of drysuit must choose an appropriate insulating undergarment based on the dive environment and expected water temperature.

Trilaminate drysuits are typically found to be at the middle to high end of the drysuit price range and are popular among cave divers and technical divers.

2. Crushed Neoprene Drysuits

Crushed neoprene drysuits are made from neoprene foam that is subjected to high pressure.

Many divers prefer crushed neoprene drysuits because they are very flexible. They are very resistant to abrasion and tearing, and are one of the most durable types of drysuits on the market. Once dry, they are simple to repair. These drysuits are only slightly positively buoyant, unlike standard neoprene foam drysuits which are very buoyant.

On the down side, crushed neoprene drysuits are heavy and slow to dry, which makes them difficult to transport when traveling. These are one of the most expensive types of drysuits, but typically last for thousands of dives.

Like trilaminate drysuits, crushed neoprene drysuits also have very little insulating qualities of their own. Again, this gives the suit more versatility, as the diver can use a variety of undergarments for the suit depending upon the expected water temperature.

Crushed neoprene drysuits are a favourite of wreck divers because of their flexibility and durability.

3. Standard Neoprene Drysuits

Neoprene drysuits are made of the same neoprene material used in wetsuits. They share many characteristics with a typical scuba diving wetsuit.

Divers sometimes choose neoprene drysuits because they are very flexible, and because the suit itself provides insulation. These are some of the less expensive suits on the market.

Just like wetsuits, neoprene drysuits are very buoyant, and they compress at depth. This means that the suits will insulate the diver less on deep dives than they will near the surface, and that the neoprene will eventually compress, reducing its insulating properties. These suits can also be difficult to repair.

This is one of the least popular types of drysuits on the market.

4. Vulcanized Rubber Drysuits

Vulcanized rubber drysuits are made of heavy duty rubber and are not common in recreational diving.

These types of drysuits are very flexible and highly durable. They are appropriate for serious underwater work such as wreck salvage, and dry almost instantaneously. This allows them to be quickly repaired after a dive.

Some disadvantages to vulcanized rubber drysuits are that thhey are very heavy and quite expensive. They are only really worth the cost if you are using them for work.

Vulcanized rubber drysuits are most commonly used in commercial diving.

5. Coated Fabric Drysuits

Coated fabric drysuits consist of a single layer of lightweight, durable fabric. The fabric is coated with a waterproof material such as polyurethane.

Coated fabric drysuits have many of the same advantages as trilaminate drysuits, including weight and ease of transport. They offer little thermal insulation on their own, and can therefore be used with a variety of undergarments.

As coated fabric drysuits are made of only a single layer of fabric, they are typically less durable than other types of drysuits. In some cases, the waterproof coating may eventually begin to wear off.

Coated fabric drysuits vary greatly in quality, durability, and price.

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The Drysuit's Zipper Location Makes a Difference!

Buddy team scuba diving under the ice in drysuits.
Scuba diving is all about team work. If you have a back entry drysuit, this team work extends to gearing up, because you'll need your buddy's assistance to zip the suit. © Getty Images

The zipper is often the most expensive part of a drysuit.  Its location can have a large impact on the ease of donning and doffing your drysuit.

1. Shoulder Entry Drysuit Zippers

Should entry suits have a horizontal zipper running across the back of the suit's shoulders. This type of zipper is commonly found in entry-level drysuits, and are simple to use and cost-effective. However, these suits are difficult to zip or un-zip alone.

2. Front Entry Drysuit Zippers

There are two common types of front entry drysuit zippers: a diagonal zipper running from the suit's shoulder to the opposing hip; and a horseshoe shaped zipper looping from the suit's shoulder, across the chest, and up to the other shoulder. These suits are easier to zip up alone, but tend to cost more because they are longer.  For small divers, the horseshoe shaped zipper may impede movement and flexibility.

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Try on Drysuits and Check Out Demo Days!

Drysuit Diver, Diver White Background, Technical Dive Gear
© Getty Images

A drysuit is a huge investment, but if you are diving in cold water, it's definitely worth it!  Your comfort and enjoyment of the dives will increase, and you will get more dives in each year when you no longer have to worry about the season.

Before purchasing a drysuit, be sure to try it on. Many drysuit manufacturers offer demo days. The manufacturer brings a wide selection of their drysuits to a popular practice site or dive site, and divers can demo the suits for functionality and fit. If you can go to a demo day -- do it!  Not only will it help you select the perfect suit, but you'll get to meet more divers and perhaps even end the day with a new dive buddy.

If you're in the market for a drysuit, the next thing to think about are your Drysuit Seals and Accessories.